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Uzbekistan could turn down Novaport's airport modernization offer

5 December 2019

The Russian Novaport Holding may be refused a project to modernize and develop the airports of Samarkand, Namangan and Urgench, Kommersant said.

Uzbekistan and Novaport signed an agreement on the project at the end of May 2019. It was reported that the holding does not claim a stake in the capital: it was a rather the matter of a concession.

Novaport was expected first to renovate the Samarkand Airport, which in 2022 will host the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with extended timeline given for the modernization of Namangan and Urgench airports: about five years.

According to Kommersant, negotiations between the Uzbek authorities and Novaport on the airports reconstruction have reached an impasse. The government was not willing to provide a 30-years concession, as requested by the investor. It is reported that the last meeting on the project took place about two months ago, and negotiations stalled on the issue of the concession duration.

However, the co-owner of AEON holding (owner of Novaport), Roman Trotsenko assured that the holding did not withdraw from negotiations with the government of Uzbekistan: “We are still in the game. ”

On December 3, the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan discussed with Japan's Sumitomo Corporation the possibility of partnership in implementing projects to modernize and manage provincial airports, create industrial and transport and logistics infrastructure, and build solar, wind and thermal power plants.

Kommersant noted that the Japanese companies had an upper hand in terms of technology and access to foreing finance. However, Japanese corporations build “efficiently, but it takes longer for them to complete a project, they are not used to working under tight schedules”, and therefore it is unlikely that they will agree to short deadlines for investing and to a shorter concession duration.

The national airline of Uzbekistan controlled all the country's airports until the end of 2018, when President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree on splitting the company into Uzbekistan Airways and Uzbekistan Airports for airport management.